Willy’s Covenant: Chapter 2

It’s official! My honors project passed! Now all that’s left is to do a final edit and get it printed and bound. For those of you who happen by the Southwestern Adventist University library this summer, you’ll probably see a copy of the project on the shelves in among the other honors theses that have been printed and catalogued over the years. Realistically, though, I recognize that not many will manage to make it to little ol’ Keene, Texas any time soon, so for those of you who can’t, I’m posting all four chapters here on my blog. I’ll be posting chapter by chapter, as the overall project is too long to put into one post.

If you haven’t gotten the chance to read chapter 1, I’ve placed the link below. Otherwise, you’ll find chapter 2 here in this post. Happy reading!

<<< Willy’s Covenant: Chapter 1

————————

Chapter 2

White froth dripped from Bonnie’s mouth and neck as Willy turned her up a long dirt path toward a small stone mansion on the hilltop not far away. The young man wasn’t sure how long it was since he had been shot, an hour maybe, but his whole world was spinning and it was all he could do to keep from falling from his mount’s back. He had stopped only long enough to tear some pieces off the shirt he wore beneath his blue-grey Covenanter uniform, but even with the makeshift bandage, he knew it would only be a matter of time before his bleeding arm would get the better of him.

The sound of dogs barking caught Willy’s ear as he neared the house, and a moment later two sleek-bodied greyhounds were dancing back and forth at Bonnie’s side, barking and yipping more in greeting than in aggression. The exhausted horse snorted a warning and jerked her head when one of the hounds came too close, causing Willy to lurch forward slightly. The young man gritted his teeth at the sudden movement, a new wave of pain reminding him of the little lead ball still wedged inside his left arm.

“Alfie! Charlotte!” came the sound of a child’s voice.

The two dogs loped away from the horse at the sound, back toward a little girl who stood in the yard with a black-and-white greyhound puppy wriggling in her arms. She was a small child, about nine years old, with wavy, dark blond hair and curious green eyes. She cocked her head to the side slightly at the sight of the young man slumped over his horse’s neck, but when Willy forced himself to sit up, the girl’s curiosity quickly gave way to a look of horror.

“Willy!” she exclaimed, rushing to Bonnie’s side. “Willy, what’s wrong?”

“Go get your pa, Lizzie,” the young man replied, his voice strained as he pulled Bonnie to a stop. “Please. Hurry.”

“Yes, sir.”

In an instant the girl dashed into the mansion, yelling “Pa! Pa, come quick!” the whole way there. Willy smiled slightly through his pain, allowing himself to lay back down on Bonnie’s back as he waited for help to arrive. That was Elizabeth McKenzie for you. The girl had a good set of lungs and plenty of energy to spare.

It felt like it had been ages since Willy had been to the McKenzie home, though he knew that in reality it had only been a few months. The McKenzies were close family friends of the Gillilands, and if there was anyone who could help Willy out of the mess he had gotten himself into, it would be them.

Chickens and dogs scattered when the front door to the mansion crashed open and Lizzie barreled out, followed closely by Mr. McKenzie, Mrs. McKenzie, and what seemed to be anyone within half a mile and within earshot of Lizzie’s yelling.

“Willy!” Mr. McKenzie gasped, hurrying to the young man’s side. “What in heaven’s name happened to you?”

“A battle down at Bothwell Bridge,” Willy replied, gasping in pain as he sat up slowly, attempting to steady his spinning vision. “Got a hole in my arm the size of my thumb, and my head feels like I’ve had a hundred pints.”

“Nonsense,” Mrs. McKenzie stated, hands on her hips. “You’d be laid out flat as a sheet if you’d had that many. John McKenzie, get this poor boy off his horse and up to bed.” She then turned to one of the servant boys. “Go fetch the doctor, lad. And don’t say a word to anyone but him, neither.”

Immediately the servant boy hurried to the stable to fetch a horse as Mr. McKenzie and one of the other servants helped Willy slide from his saddle. The young man felt his legs give way the moment his feet touched solid ground, and it was only thanks to the help of Mr. McKenzie and the servant that he avoided falling flat on his face in the middle of the yard.

“We’ll have to carry him,” Mr. McKenzie stated, trying to adjust his grip on Willy without hurting him further. “Someone get his horse cleaned up and into the barn.”

Willy moaned in pain when Mr. McKenzie and a couple of the servants lifted him off the ground. Lizzie moved toward him, her eyebrows knit in concern as she clutched the puppy still dangling in her arms, but Mrs. McKenzie grabbed the girl by the shoulder, pulling her back to her side.

“No you don’t,” the woman said, turning her daughter in the opposite direction. “Now put that creature away and come help me fix up some bandages for Willy.”

š***

It was dark out as Willy stirred from sleep. He had been slipping in and out of consciousness ever since Mr. McKenzie and the servants had moved him to the bed, and after the torment he had faced when the doctor came to take the musket ball out of his arm, Willy couldn’t help but feel mildly surprised that he was even still alive at all. It had certainly felt like he was dying during the procedure.

The door to his room squeaked ever so slightly and the young man turned to see a pale face peeping through the crack between the open door and the doorframe.

“Lizzie?” Willy asked, straining his eyes to see in the dark.

The door squeaked again and the little girl slipped into the room. She was clad in a white woolen nightgown, her dark blond hair pulled back into a loose braid. She tiptoed on bare feet to his bedside and crawled up onto the bed next to him.

“You are alive,” she breathed in a not-so-quiet whisper. “Ma said you were, but you’ve been lying in here forever, and I thought you’d died after the way you were screaming when the doctor came.”

“I thought I had, too,” Willy chuckled quietly in reply, wincing when Lizzie’s movement caused his arm to shift. “So, you got up in the middle of the night just to see if I was alive?”

“Of course,” the little girl responded, putting her hands on her hips and looking at him as though he had just said something very stupid. “Ma wouldn’t let me come in, so I had to sneak in. She said you needed rest.”

“Well, you had better go back to bed before she catches you,” Willy smiled, closing his eyes as he felt the exhaustion overtake him again. “Wouldn’t want her to get angry, now would we?”

He lifted one eyelid slightly to look at her, and even in the dark he could tell she was pouting as she crossed her arms over her chest.

“Then can I tell you about Artair when you wake up in the morning?” she asked.

“Artair?”

“My puppy.”

Willy laughed slightly, lifting his right arm and giving the girl a gentle push off the bed.

“When your Ma says it’s all right, you can tell me all about your puppy.”

A broad grin lit up Lizzie’s face, and with a giggle she trotted back the way she had come, peeking through the cracked-open door one more time before closing it with a soft clack.

Willy snorted softly at the girl’s antics, then turned his gaze up to the ceiling as he relaxed back into the bed. Despite how tired he had felt only moments before, he now couldn’t seem to close his eyes, and his mind wandered back to the events at Bothwell Bridge.

He had been so sure of victory. If they could manage to defeat the Royalists with a bunch of ill-equipped farmers and ministers at Drumclog, why not there, at the bridge, where they should have had every advantage as they funneled the enemy soldiers into firing range? No one, not even professionally-trained soldiers, should have been able to overtake that position.

Willy’s first instinct was to blame Mr. Hamilton. He was their commander. It was his responsibility to keep the troops organized and well-supplied. So why? Why had he not been there? He should have been there. He should have…

If God be for us, who can be against us?

Willy balled his right hand into a fist as his eyes narrowed and he clenched his teeth into an infuriated grimace. The verse that had once given him such courage now made his blood boil. If God be for them, indeed. What of Mr. Hamilton and his betrayal? Where had God been in the midst of it all? The Covenanters had been fighting for Him, hadn’t they? Hadn’t they?

The thought of James crossed Willy’s mind then, and quickly his anger melted into shame. James had always been by his side, had always been the voice of reason where Willy himself seemed to have none. James had thought the animosity among the Covenanters would do nothing but harm the movement. Perhaps he had been right after all. If it hadn’t been for Willy’s stubbornness, for his insistence that God would be with them no matter what…if it hadn’t been for that, they could have gone home before the battle had even started, and James wouldn’t…

Willy choked back a sob as the image of James pinned beneath his horse flashed through his mind, and quietly he turned his head until his cheek was pressed into the fabric of his pillow. A few stray tears slipped down his cheek, but he made no move to wipe them away. This was going to be a very long night.

š***

The sun was shining brightly when Willy stirred from sleep again. He wasn’t sure as to exactly when he had fallen asleep, but his pillow was still moist with tears, if that was any indication at all. A light breeze shifted through the open window nearby, carrying with it the sound of horses nickering, dogs barking, and Lizzie laughing.

A light knock rapped gently on the door, and Willy turned his head away from the window to look in the direction the sound had come from. The door opened and in stepped Mrs. McKenzie, a bowl in her arms.

“Look who’s awake,” she smiled, walking over to Willy’s left side and setting the bowl on the bedside table.

Willy glanced over and watched as a faint steam rose from the bowl. It must have hot water in it, he thought.

“The doctor says you’re lucky,” Mrs. McKenzie continued, pulling a roll of clean bandages and a packet of what looked to be herbs out of her apron pocket and placing them on the bedside table before turning back to the young man. “The shot wasn’t very deep. You should be back up and causing mischief in no time.”

Willy gave her a weak smile before turning his face back toward the door that now stood partially open. For a moment, there was silence, then Mrs. McKenzie patted his shoulder and said, “All right, now sit up so I can change this bandage. And don’t you go moping on me, neither. Isn’t like you.”

Without a word, the young man sat up, careful not to put any weight on his left arm. He watched as the woman removed the bandage and began to clean up the wound. So far, no evidence of infection had set in, which was good. If it did, he’d be without an arm…or worse…but he supposed it was still better than the fates of those he had left on the battlefield.

“Is there any word about the others?” Willy asked at length, wincing in pain as Mrs. McKenzie dabbed a wet cloth around his wound.

“Aye,” the woman replied solemnly. “They say three or four hundred are dead; some thousand are being kept at Greyfriar’s kirkyard. Shame. To use a church as a prison yard. Lord knows what will happen to those poor souls. Mr. McKenzie is out looking for information as we speak. I’m sure he’ll have more for you when he returns.”

Willy grunted weakly in reply. A church yard. Of course it would be a church yard. Faithless dogs. He had no doubt the selection of Greyfriar’s was in mockery of the Covenanters themselves. The very people who fought for religious freedom were now held prisoner in the shadow of religion.

The young Scotsman was so lost in thought that he didn’t even notice Mrs. McKenzie had finished bandaging his arm until she patted him on the shoulder.

“Now then,” she said, holding up a large piece of cloth, “here’s a sling for you. Once we get your arm fixed up, you should go outside and get some fresh air. No sense in staying bedridden with an arm wound, now is there?”

Almost as if on cue, Lizzie’s voice erupted from just below the window.

“Willy!” the girl called at the top of her lungs. “Are you awake yet?”

“Mercy, lass!” Mrs. McKenzie replied, leaning out the window to look down at her daughter. “If the poor boy wasn’t awake before, he would surely be now. And half the countryside with him, I’d say. Run along now. Willy will join you shortly.”

The woman then turned back to the young man sitting in the bed.

“Won’t you?” she said. It was less of a question and more of a statement.

A half smile crept onto Willy’s face.

“I don’t suppose I have much of a choice,” he laughed softly.

š***

“Look at him. Isn’t he cute?” Lizzie asked, holding the black-and-white greyhound puppy up as close to Willy’s face as she possibly could. She only managed to reach as far as the young man’s chest.

“He’s a lively wee lad, isn’t he?” Willy smiled, rubbing his thumb over the puppy’s head.

The little creature craned its neck, trying desperately to lick the hand petting it.

“What did you call him?”

“Artair.”

“Artair. Very…noble name, aye?”

“Aye!” Lizzie giggled. “Too bad you hurt your arm, or you could hold him. I think he really likes you. Here.”

The girl set the puppy down on the ground and picked up a stick which lay nearby. She held the stick up to Willy as Artair danced around the young man’s feet, biting at the toes of his boots and yipping happily.

“Throw it for him. He likes to play fetch.”

For a moment, Willy looked at the stick doubtfully. It didn’t take long for Lizzie to notice his hesitation, and the girl placed her free hand on her hip in dramatic exasperation.

“Well, that arm isn’t broken, is it?” she asked, pointing at his right arm with the stick in her hand.

“No.”

“Then here. It’s not that hard to throw a stick.”

Willy laughed, shaking his head at the girl’s insistence, then obliged. He weighed the stick in his hand for a moment, then waggled it in Artair’s face before throwing it across the yard. With a yip, the puppy bounded around and took off in pursuit of the new-found toy.

“Fast, isn’t he?” Lizzie asked, grinning up at Willy.

“Very,” the young man nodded.

A moment later, Artair returned, his head cocked to one side, one end of the stick in his mouth, the other dragging on the ground. Lizzie reached for the stick when, all of a sudden, the sound of hoof beats began to echo across the countryside. The girl scooped the puppy up in her arms and Willy pulled her back toward the house as Mr. McKenzie, astride a dark grey horse, galloped into the yard. The horse snorted as the man pulled it to a stop.

“Willy. Lizzie. In the house. Now,” the man said as he slid from the saddle. “I’ll be in momentarily.”

Lizzie cocked her head at her father in concerned curiosity, but Willy took her by the hand and pulled her toward the house. Now was not the time to question a command. Whatever it was that had Mr. McKenzie on edge, Willy reckoned they would all know soon enough.

š***

It was several minutes before Mr. McKenzie appeared in the main room of the mansion. Already every resident and servant had gathered into the room on the man’s command, and the small gathering exchanged confused and worried glances amongst one another when Mr. McKenzie came to stand before them.

“General Dalzell has joined forces with Monmouth and Claverhouse,” the man spoke at length, clearing his throat slightly. He was trying to remain calm, but Willy could tell he was nervous. “It would appear that those held prisoner at Greyfriar’s kirkyard will be allowed to live, though the…conditions…may be less than savory. Those who fled the field, however…”

Mr. McKenzie turned toward Willy.

“No quarter is being given. Most of us know the reputations of Dalzell and Claverhouse already. They now have permission to do whatever they please with the Covenanters they find. Those who are found are not spared. Those who harbored them…are not spared either. There are homes of our fellow countrymen that burn as we speak. So as of this moment, there will be conditions placed on this household.”

The man began to pace back and forth at the front of the room.

“No one is to speak of Willy. If anyone asks about his horse, I just bought her. Lizzie will need to stay inside for the time being, as well. I don’t trust her around the soldiers. Am I understood?”

A chorus of solemn, muttered ascents were all the reply he got.

“Good. You’re all dismissed. Except for you, Willy. I need to have a word with you.”

The young man could feel a sinking sensation in his gut as he followed Mr. McKenzie into his study. The man didn’t say another word until the door was shut and locked behind them.

“I’m sorry, lad,” Mr. McKenzie said quietly as he turned toward Willy, his expression sympathetic, “but you can’t stay here for long. There is nowhere safe for you. Not here. Not in Scotland. I’ve already spoken with an associate of mine. We’ve booked passage for you on a ship bound for Ireland. You’ll leave a month from now, as soon as that arm of yours heals up enough for you to travel.”

“Ireland?” Willy asked, his expression baffled. “I don’t know anything about Ireland. Where would I go?”

“That is between you and God, lad,” Mr. McKenzie said with a shake of his head. “This is as much for your sake as it is for my own. You’re strong and smart. You’ll sort it out.”

Willy ran a hand over his mouth, trying to gather his thoughts as the reality sank in. Between him and God, was it? That might have sounded fine a day ago, but now…?

“God doesn’t seem to have much interest in me,” Willy muttered, shaking his head.

“Is that so?” Mr. McKenzie replied, raising one eyebrow at him.

“What with my cousin James falling on the battlefield…and now this…”

“Your cousin James is at Greyfriar’s kirkyard, Willy,” Mr. McKenzie corrected quickly, placing a firm hand on Willy’s shoulder so that the younger man would look at him. “He’s alive. And his odds of seeing this through are better than even yours. I’ve already gotten word that they’re sending him to the New World as an indentured servant. Not the best outcome, but it’s something. He yet has a chance. And you do, too. Don’t give up on God so soon. He doesn’t seem to have given up on you.”

————————

Chapter 3 >>>

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